The idea of writing out a vacation rental agreement can seem daunting, but it’s not as difficult as you might expect. As long as you break the agreement down into several sections, it’s actually pretty simple to outline all of your rules and policies. When writing a vacation rental agreement, the main thing to remember is to state everything as plainly and clearly as possible. Don’t leave room for any ambiguity. In this article, we’ll discuss why you need a rental agreement and everything that you should include.
What Is a Rental Agreement?
A vacation rental agreement, also referred to as a short-term rental agreement, is a contract between a landlord and a tenant (in this case, between you, as the vacation rental owner, and your guests). A vacation rental agreement outlines the terms of a short stay at the property and is typically meant for a brief period between one and 30 days. Your rental agreement must be in accordance with all state laws and any rules set by the listing site where you got the booking.
Why Do You Need a Rental Agreement?
Are rental agreements really necessary? Find out why a vacation rental agreement is highly recommended below.
Protection for Both Parties
First, a rental agreement provides protection for both parties: you and your guests. It protects you in the case that a guest breaks any of your rules or causes damage to your property. For example, if a guest brings a pet when you have a no-pets-allowed policy, your rental agreement will protect you in the case of a dispute.
Meanwhile, a rental agreement also provides protection for your guests. A rental agreement details the property and the various amenities that come with it. If the guest arrives to find that the property isn’t as it was stated to be, or that various amenities aren’t there, then they’d be protected by the rental agreement. For instance, if you wrote in your listing and in the agreement that you provide high-speed WiFi, but you actually have an old-fashioned dial-up internet connection, the guest could file a complaint and be protected by your rental agreement.
Note that the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) has a tax exemption for vacation rental properties that are only rented out for 14 days or less. Any vacation rental income that meets this qualification is not taxed.
However, if you rent out your vacation rental for more than two weeks per year, then you’re required to pay taxes on the income you make from it. Still, there are opportunities to write off various expenses, such as mortgage interest and property tax.
To prove to the IRS that your rental income is taxable or non-taxable, you’re required to keep track of the dates when guests stayed at your vacation rental property. Vacation rental agreements can serve as proof in the case of an audit from the IRS. If you don’t have your vacation rental agreements, you’ll need to figure out another way to prove your bookings or face tax consequences.
Let’s say that you don’t have a vacation rental agreement and a guest files a claim against you. With a lack of documentation, it’s likely you will lose the claim. In addition, the attorney will need to spend more time sorting out liability and other factors in the case before they argue on your behalf. Since attorneys typically charge per hour, this can end up costing you quite a bit. But if you have a vacation rental agreement, it makes it much simpler for your lawyer to represent you and win the claim.
It’s not common for vacation rental guests to leave notable damage to your property, but the risk is always there. And if you don’t have a vacation rental agreement in place, then you’ll be stuck covering the cost of repairs or replacements for anything that was damaged. But with an agreement in place, you can file a claim with your insurance company and receive more coverage, spending less out of pocket.
A common vacation rental horror story is that of the squatter, the guest who refuses to leave and attempts to take up residence in your rental. Although this is a rare occurrence, having a clear vacation rental agreement and requiring your guests to sign it can prevent this situation from taking place. If a guest attempts to stay past their welcome, you can formally evict them, thanks to the vacation rental agreement they signed, which states the dates they were allowed to stay at the property.
What Should Be Included in a Rental Agreement?
Now that you know why a vacation rental agreement is so important, let’s go over everything that you’ll need to include.
The best way to start your vacation rental agreement is with the property details. This includes a description of the property, as well as its amenities. Make sure to use language that is very clear and doesn’t leave anything up for interpretation. Specify the type of property (house, apartment, suite, room, etc.), the number of bedrooms, and the number of bathrooms. List the amenities, such as which spices will be provided in the kitchen and how many towels you have for guests to use.
Of course, you’ll need to specify the rental period in your vacation rental agreement. The rental period simply refers to the period of time that a specific guest will be staying at your vacation rental. List both the dates of arrival and departure, as well as the acceptable check-in and check-out times.
Rules and Regulations
At this point in the rental agreement, it’s time to go into detail regarding any rules you want your guests to follow. Do you allow smoking on the property? What about pets? Are there any specific rules regarding pets, i.e., they aren’t allowed to stay inside the rental property without a guest present?
You’ll also need to cover any rules regarding additional visitors who are not members of the rental party. Note the maximum occupancy rate and whether or not parties and events are allowed at your vacation rental property.
Another thing to cover in this section of the agreement is your cancellation policy. This is especially important if you have a no-refunds policy in place. Finally, your rules regarding damage to property and belongings belong in this section of your vacation rental agreement as well.
Be sure to word everything as clearly as possible and ensure there aren’t any loopholes in your rules that could enable guests to get away with breaking them. However, most guests tend to be responsible people that have no problem agreeing to and following the vacation rental owner’s rules.
Check-In and Check-Out Procedures
Your vacation rental agreement also needs to cover any check-in and check-out procedures. For instance, if you have self check-in, you’ll need to describe the check-in process step-by-step, as simply as possible, so that there is no confusion for your guests. If you have a keypad or smart lock, list out all the steps so that even people who aren’t experienced with technology can easily follow them. As far as check-out, is there anything you’d like your guests to do before leaving? Do they need to adjust the thermostat, lock the doors and windows, or start the laundry? Note any check-out requirements in this section.
Rate, Deposit, and Payment Details
Another important part of your vacation rental agreement has to do with how much you’re charging the guest to stay at your vacation rental and how they’re completing the payment. Clearly state the rate and total amount due, breaking it down into fees, taxes, and other applicable charges. You should also note the payment methods you’re willing to accept, such as cash, checks, and credit cards. Finally, note the date that the payment is due.
You may also want to consider charging a security deposit for your guests. The security deposit can be valuable in the case of a cancellation or if property damage occurs. Generally, guests will pay the security deposit upfront when they make a reservation. Then, it can be refunded to the guest upon check-out or deducted from the total balance due.
Space for Signatures
At the end of your vacation rental agreement, be sure to leave plenty of space for you and your guests to sign. This is essential to prove that you both agreed to all of the terms laid out in the document.
Writing a short-term rental agreement for your vacation rental property? Here are the main things you need to know:
- A vacation rental agreement or short-term rental agreement is a contract between you and your guests that outlines the terms of their stay.
- A rental agreement provides protection for you and your guests. It can save you from tax consequences, enable you to evict squatters, and help you avoid attorney fees. A rental agreement is also invaluable in the case of property damage.
- A good vacation rental agreement covers a variety of information. First, you’ll need to include a description of the property and its amenities. You’ll also need to specify the rental period, or the period of time that your guest is staying. Next, detail all of your rules and policies as well as the check-in and check-out procedures. Finish up with the rate, deposit, and payment details, plus some space for you and your guests to sign the agreement at the end.